News and Tribune

August 19, 2012

Tornado victims, volunteers share stories at March2Recovery event

By AMANDA ARNOLD
newsroom@newsandtribune.com

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — September will serve as the six-month mark of the March 2 tornadoes that caused so much damage and heartache in Southern Indiana. While the storm has passed, the cleanup has been successful and such structures as the Henryville school complex have been rebuilt, the recovery continues.  

“A lot of people are still dealing with where to rebuild and if to rebuild. Some people still have things that are needed to be done,” said Jill Kaetzel, pastor, Emmanuel United Methodist Church of Otisco.

Rebuilding structures is part of the recovery, but people must also rebuild their spirit. March2Recovery is a volunteer and staffed organization that was formed for the purpose of providing assistance to those affected by the tornadoes. There are many who still have unmet needs, and some are emotional while others are structural.   

On Thursday, March2Recovery held “Sharing Our Stories” at Emmanuel Methodist Church. The evening served as a time for individuals to share their feelings. The important part of the conversation is how life has changed in the last five months.

“We know a big part of healing from something as traumatic as the storm is telling the story, and to hear other people so you don’t feel alone,” said Rev. Jennifer Mills-Knutsen of St. Luke United Church of Christ in Jeffersonville. Mills-Knutsen also serves as a chairperson on the March2Recovery team.

Mills-Knutsen continued to explain the reaction some of the storm victims have been expressing.

“People are experiencing all kinds of things. Some are experiencing nightmares, fear of storms, not wanting to leave home and stress. They feel like they are the only ones feeling that way. Our goal is to get people together so they can share, and we will give them some strategies to cope,” Mills-Knutsen said.

Opening the discussion to how the survivors feel was a first step. This involved Mills-Knutsen leading the group in selecting beads that represent how they felt during the storm and how they feel now. Many people chose butterflies to symbolize new growth and crosses to show faith. Spindles that represent the chaos that followed the event were also a chosen bead as well as flowers. The flower bead represents “sprouting of new buildings and the feeling of hope and blossoming.”  

The individuals who participated in the first Sharing Our Stories meeting were those who helped during the initial aftermath. While those who helped may not have lost a house, feelings associated with the event were still in need of discussion and healing. The meetings are open to all who were affected by the storm.

The next Sharing Our Stories will be Wednesday and Aug. 28. Mills-Knutsen explained that there may be more meetings depending on the need. For more information about upcoming events with March2Recovery visit http://march2recovery.org. People interested in volunteering can also find information on the website. As of March 2, more than 10,000 volunteers have contributed more than 65,000 hours to the storm efforts.